JK Rowling returns human rights award over trans criticism

"No award or honour, no matter my admiration for the person for whom it was named, means so much to me that I would forfeit the right to follow the dictates of my own conscience," Rowling said.(Photo: Reuters)

JK Rowling has returned a prestigious human rights award after being criticised for her defence of women's rights in the ongoing debate over transgenderism. 

The Harry Potter author received the award from the family of Robert Kennedy in New York last December.

Earlier this month, the late senator's daughter, Kerry Kennedy, criticised Rowling over her views on transgenderism

The 60-year-old said she had told Rowling of her "profound disappointment" in her views. 

She said Rowling had "chosen to use her remarkable gifts to create a narrative that diminishes the identity of trans and non-binary people".

"From her own words, I take Rowling's position to be that the sex one is assigned at birth is the primary and determinative factor of one's gender, regardless of one's gender identity — a position that I categorically reject," she said in a statement on the website of the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights (RFKHR) organisation. 

Rowling has been at the centre of a row over transgender rights after criticising an article that referred to "people who menstruate" instead of women. 

Despite a backlash over her views, she defended them in a lengthy personal essay on her website in which she said the article in question had used "degrading language" towards women. 

Rowling has now returned the award to the Kennedy family and rejected Ms Kennedy's criticism. 

"The statement incorrectly implied that I was transphobic, and that I am responsible for harm to trans people," Rowling wrote in a statement on her website. 

"As a longstanding donor to LGBT charities and a supporter of trans people's right to live free of persecution, I absolutely refute the accusation that I hate trans people or wish them ill, or that standing up for the rights of women is wrong, discriminatory, or incites harm or violence to the trans community." 

She said she had "no option" but to return the Ripple of Hope Award out of "solidarity" with the many people who had contacted her with concerns about transgender ideology "but who are struggling to make their voices heard", and "because of the very serious conflict of views between myself and RFKHR". 

She said that while she had "nothing but sympathy towards those with gender dysphoria", there was widespread concern among experts about the 'affirmative' model gaining increasing traction, and that the treatment being offered to young people with gender dysphoria was becoming "an ethical and medical scandal". 

"I've been particularly struck by the stories of brave detransitioned young women who've risked the opprobrium of activists by speaking up about a movement they say has harmed them," she said.

"After hearing personally from some of these women, and from such a wide range of professionals, I've been forced to the unhappy conclusion that an ethical and medical scandal is brewing.

"I believe the time is coming when those organisations and individuals who have uncritically embraced fashionable dogma, and demonised those urging caution, will have to answer for the harm they've enabled."